The Filipino Diaspora: Why We Seek Greener Pastures
“And all the earth shall be filled with thee, and all the sea...”
That statement above – addressed to the Jews – is contained in the third book of the Sibylline Oracles. It may have been slightly exaggerated when it came out sometime in the 2nd century B.C., but that prophecy uncannily came true the following century. Witnesses such as Seneca, Philo, and Greek geographer Strabo – the last believed to have remarked that one can’t go anywhere without encountering a Jew – confirmed that a massive Jewish diaspora did take place in a number of cities in the Roman Empire.
Today, it can be said that no ethnic group suits that statement better than Filipinos. On whatever land or sea it may be, in any of the four corners of the world, there’s sure to be a Filipino. What makes them want to leave their homeland with such dogged persistence?
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) can be found from Norway to Nigeria. Each Sunday, they are found milling around Victoria Park in Hong Kong and the cobbled streets of Rome. As of 2009, there are about 8.6 million overseas Filipinos, plus about 2 million more who are undocumented. These include people of Filipino ancestry who are citizens of other countries and Filipino citizens working abroad on a temporary basis. Considering that we are a nation of about 100 million people, these figures represent a substantial percentage which cannot simply be ignored.
The burning question
Why do my countrymen choose to leave the country temporarily, or for keeps? Our grandparents fondly recall the Philippines’ ‘Golden Years’ – the post-war ‘50s – when our engineers, doctors, architects, and other white-collar professionals would be invited by our neighbors such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia to share their professional expertise. Funds and other assistance poured in